Whitby Town had to settle for a point on day one of the Northern Premier League season, after Craig Farrell’s strike was cancelled out by a freak goal and manager Darren Williams was sent off
However annoyed the Blues boss was with being sent to the stands for what looked a fairly innocuous incident, he will have been delighted when Farrell broke the deadlock, early on.
The ex-York City marksman beat goalkeeper Rob Peet to Adam Rundle’s through-ball, which held up kindly in the wind, to slot home inside nine minutes.
There were four competitive debutants in the Whitby side, with 18-year-old Shane Bland, recently released from Middlesbrough’s Academy, in goal.
Well-travelled midfielder Lee Bullock dropped into centre-half, alongside Richard Pell, with Adam Rundle, who scored against West Ham for Irish side Cork earlier this summer, on the left flank.
Striker Graeme Armstrong was absent for personal reasons, so Steven Snaith partnered Farrell up front, while Ibby Hassan’s one-match suspension meant Kev Burgess started in an unfamiliar right-back role.
Former Hull City veteran Laurie Wilson’s ferocious 25-yard drive was fended away, high to his right, by Bland.
Burgess then nodded over Peet, two minutes before half-time, only for the ball to drop agonisingly wide of the visitors’ left-hand post.
Town were made to pay early in the second half, as Ilkeston’s 150-plus travelling supporters finally had something to shout about.
Blues were awarded a free-kick, just outside their penalty area and Burgess nudged the ball for Bland to take the set-piece.
However, Matt Richards closed down aggressively, shouting that the kick had been taken and causing Bland to clear hurridly into touch. Richards then raced after the ball, throwing quickly to Antwan Russell, who lobbed the stranded teenager, from the edge of the penalty area, for 1-1.
Williams felt referee Barry Gordon blundered once again by allowing the goal.
“I don’t like to pick out officials, but it was blatantly obvious the free-kick hadn’t been taken,” he fumed.
“Kev had just stepped over it for Shane to take.
“Fair play to the winger, he said Kev had taken the free-kick and Shane has panicked.
“The referee needs to be strong there and blow his whistle – the lad’s been clever in what he’s done.”
Williams reserved praise for Bland’s display, despite the incident, stating: “Shane’s had a brilliant game, I’m not putting the blame on him.
“I’d have rather he picked the ball up, [conceded] a free kick and a yellow card, but it was blatant.”
Soon after, Ricketts crashed into Williams and after a long pause, the ex-Sunderland star was sent to the main stand, with Russell and Pell earning bookings.
Both sides had chances before the end, with Bland justifying his manager’s praise by saving superbly at his near post, late on, to safeguard what may prove a useful point in the months to come.
Whitby Town: Bland, Burgess, Robinson (c), Bullock (James 28), Pell, Portas, Mulligan(Henry 86), McTiernan, Snaith, Farrell, Rundell.
Subs not used: Cook (GK), Evans, Dixon.
Co-operative Whitby WTFC Man of The Match: Kev Burgess
Match sponsor: The Whitby Gazette
Whitby Town 1 Ilkeston FC 1